Saudi Arabia officials said Thursday that evidence from Turkey indicates the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was “premeditated” ― another shift in the kingdom’s story.
Turkish investigators, jointly probing the killing inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, developed information that “indicates that the suspects in the incident had committed their act with a premeditated intention,” according to a statement reported by Saudi state media. The statement said the investigation would continue.
The statement is a further shift in the Saudi government’s story about what happened to Khashoggi. The kingdom initially denied involvement in the Oct. 2 disappearance of Khashoggi after he entered the consulate. Late last week, Saudi officials acknowledged the death of the Washington Post columnist and frequent critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and said it was the result of a fistfight gone awry.
Saudi officials have also said that Khashoggi’s assailants were “rogue” killers. The evolving explanations have drawn speculation of a cover-up.
Rejecting the changing Saudi stories, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday said his country’s investigation pointed to signs that “Khashoggi was murdered in a ferocious manner,” and his killing was “a planned operation.”
U.S. President Donald Trump, who initially accepted the Saudi denials, hardened his rhetoric this week, saying the killing “was carried out poorly, and the cover-up was one of the worst cover-ups in the history of cover-ups.”
Trump and U.S. officials have faced strong criticism for not responding forcefully to Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Asked if he believed the Saudi explanations, Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, tasked with brokering Middle East peace, said Tuesday that the White House is “more in the fact-finding phase.”
CIA Director Gina Haspel, who visited Turkey this week, listened to recorded audio of Khashoggi’s murder obtained by Turkish investigators, Reuters reported Thursday, citing two unnamed sources.